We all have the takeaway or eating out feeling from time to time, usually on a Friday night after a hard working week. Part of the relaxation and unwinding process on a Friday night is to switch off and have some fun. However, if you are trying to lose weight and be healthy, switching off when you order your Chinese takeaway (or eat in) could undo a week’s worth of healthy eating. It could also take you from a deficit (meaning weight loss) to a surplus (meaning weight gain), even if you have been careful for the other 5 days of the week.
Preparing healthy food at home requires thought and planning, so surely eating out reasonably healthily is impossible? Well, not really. Just a bit of thought – and in particular planning – means that you can have your Chinese takeaway and eat it, as it were.
The first key to the healthiest Chinese takeaway – and in fact any meal out – is to plan ahead. If you know in advance that you will be going out on a particular night, say a Friday, then be pre-emptive and try to eat slightly less than you usually would do for a few days beforehand. In other words, build up some savings, calorie-wise, so that you can spend them and have fun later on.
Another part of this process is to decide what to have beforehand, not on the spur of the moment when you are in the restaraunt and possibly already hungry and excited about the prospect of a feast. So use technology in a smart way, check out the menu online beforehand and make your choices in advance. You don’t have to have something you wouldn’t usually have or that you won’t enjoy, but just be mindful (of both overall calories and salt) when making your choices. Most restaurants now have calorific values for their menu so some simple mathematics will help you to consume fewer calories.
So, onto the actual healthiest Chinese takeaway choices.
Pre appetisers – beware anything that you are given without ordering. Fried noodles that are brought to the table before ordering can be dangerous. It’s easy to eat these in a distracted way and before you know it that’s 500 calories. Order a low calorie drink like a vodka and soda with lime and wait for your starter instead.
Soups tend to be lower in calories than other starters (hot and sour or Wanton soup = 100-130 cals), steamed dumplings are also a good choice (1 vegetable dumpling only 25 cals). Avoid mini spring rolls (170 cals each) and especially egg rolls (300-350 cals each).
Chinese food is actually based on healthy meats, fish and vegetables. It’s the sauces and cooking methods (frying oil) that make the calories and salt add up. Fill up on steamed vegetables and lean meats that are not swimming in sauce and request the sauce on the side. Chicken and broccoli, beef and broccoli, shrimp and vegetables with black bean sauce, mixed vegetables, anything steamed with the sauce on the side, Kung Pao chicken and any sort of meat and vegetable filled wrap are all good choices. These mains will all come in around 250-400 calories. However, once fried things escalate: crispy fried chicken = 480 calories, beef chow mein = 450 calories. Anything described as crispy, coated, marinated, twice-cooked or battered suggests higher calorie and fat contents.
Rice on its own isn’t a big problem, but fried rice will add 200-300 calories to the meal. Also, portion control will make a big difference. Portions of rice in a Chinese takeaway are usually huge, so just have one portion shared between two (or even three) people. You can add your own sauce (preferably one low in fat) on the side and go steady with it.
If you must, after all of that feasting, then fortune cookies are a good choice coming in at only 25 calories each.
Drinking wine or beer will increase your calorific intake massively, in some cases doubling the number of calories you consume in any given meal. So spirits and low calorie mixers are recommended, Prosecco or Champagne, diet soft drinks or low calorie cocktails are smarter choices. There are more options on our low calorie alcoholic drinks blog.
Part of our personal training ethos is realism. No-one can live like a saint all the time. But making slightly better choices in lots of different areas, including your Friday night Chinese takeaway, will help you to achieve your goal of health, fitness and weight loss.